Using or Exchanging a Driving License in Spain

Information on who may exchange their foreign driver's licence for a Spanish licence. Information applies to European Union citizens (UK, EU etc.) as well as people with American, Australian or other non-EU driver's licences.

The rules on whether a foreigner in Spain may legally use their driver's licence, or whether they must exchange it for a Spanish one, depend on where their licence was issued. There are three options:

Some licences may be kept or exchanged for a Spanish one

Some must exchange their licence (canjes de permisos) for a Spanish one within a set period

Some may not be exchanged. The holder must undergo a full driving test (theory and practical) in order to get a Spanish driving licence (licencia de conducción) which will allow them to legally drive in Spain.

Holders of an EU Driving Licence

All valid EU (European Union) Community and EEC (European Economic Area) driving licences are valid in Spain provided that the licence holder is 18 years or older (18 is the minimum driving age in Spain). There is no obligation for the licence to be exchanged for a Spanish one. However a foreign resident in Spain is entitled to exchange the EEA licence if they choose to.

Note: The EEC includes all European Union countries, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein.

Although exchanging an EU driving licence for a Spanish licence is not required, all Spanish licence conditions apply to the EU licence being used by a foreign resident in Spain. These conditions include:

  • the period of validity of the licence
  • requirement for medical checks
  • payment of taxes
  • penalties and restrictions, including suspension, withdrawal and cancellation of the licence

If a driving infraction occurs, Spanish authorities can require the holder of a licence from an EU country to obtain a new, Spanish licence so that points can be removed.

Foreign drivers from within the EU will still need to register with the traffic authorities within six months of moving to Spain. Details must be registered with the Central Register of Drivers and Minor Offenders (Registro Central de Conductores e Infractores) of the Provincial Traffic Headquarters (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico) of their place of residence.

Once registered, applicants will need to undergo a medical examination at an Authorised Drivers Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado) to show mental and physical fitness and the standards that apply to Spanish drivers will apply to them.

Licence Addresses

While it is completely legal to use the EU-issued licence until it expires, it is not possible to change the address on the EU licence to an address outside of the issuing country. It is generally accepted within the rules that the address on the licence will be from the issuing country and may not be the drivers' actual residential address.

UK licence holders please note this statement from the DVLA:

Moving to another country

You don't need to notify DVLA of a change of address when moving to live abroad.

Exchanging an EEC licence for a Spanish licence

The holder of an EEC driving licence may exchange it for an equivalent Spanish licence. Application must be made at the Provincial Traffic Headquarters of the applicant's province of residence and an application form issued by the Provincial Traffic Headquarters must be completed.

Documents required:

  • Proof of identity (passport original and copy)
  • Proof of residence (Certificate of Registration in the Central Aliens Register - the NIE number (Número de Identificación de Extranjer)
  • Valid driving licence to be exchanged (original and photocopy)
  • Two recent photographs (32 by 25 mm)
  • Declaration in writing stating that the applicant has not been banned or suspended from driving
  • Declaration in writing stating that the applicant does not hold another driving licence of the same class in another country
  • The licence issued will be credit card sized and include photo identification.
  • The driving licence will be sent by ordinary post.
  • The licence will need regular renewal; a standard Spanish driving licence for a private car or bike is valid for ten years when the holder is under 45 years of age, five years between 45 and 70, and two years from 70 on.

Using a Non-EU Driving Licence in Spain

Licence holders 18 years of age and older, with a valid licence from anywhere other than the EEC countries may legally drive in Spain for up to six months after first acquiring Spanish residency.

During that period it is essential that an official translation or an International Drivers Permit (IDP) accompany any foreign licence that is not in Spanish.

After six months the foreign licence is no longer valid. Exchange agreements exist between Spain and some countries which allow the licence holder to exchange their licence for an equivalent Spanish one. Spain has a special licence exchange agreement with Switzerland, South Korea, Japan and Andorra.

Licences issued in the following countries may also be exchanged by foreigners legally resident in Spain: Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Ecuador, Morocco, Peru, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Any person with a licence from any other country will need to take the full Spanish driving test.

Note: the list of countries sharing exchange agreements does change. It is recommended to confirm with the relevant nation's Consulate in Spain if an exchange agreement exists.

Exchanging a non-EU licence for a Spanish licence

Application must be made at the Provincial Traffic Headquarters (Jefatura Provincial de Tráfico).

Necessary documentation:

  • Completed application form issued by the Provincial Traffic Headquarters
  • Photocopy (and original) of a Spanish Residence Permit (Tarjeta de Residencia) and a copy of the passport along with the NIE number (Número de Identificación de Extranjero) as proof of address in Spain
  • Certificate of psychological aptitude issued by the Authorised Drivers Check Centre (Centro de Reconocimiento de Conductores Autorizado) of the province of residence of the applicant
  • Two recent photographs (32 x 25 mm)
  • Declaration in writing that there is no legal process pending nor licence suspension that forbids the right to drive
  • Declaration in writing that no other equivalent licence from any other country is held
  • Declaration in writing (in Spanish) that the licence is authentic and valid. RACE (Real Automóvil Club de España) is able to assist
  • The licence being exchanged and a photocopy (It may be necessary to have an official Spanish translation of the licence).
  • The Provincial Traffic Headquarters may request verification from the country that issued the permit that it is real and valid.

Further information (in Spanish) is available from the Provincial Traffic Headquarters by telephone:

Provincial Traffic Headquarters

Tel: 902 300 175 (Monday to Friday 09:00-16:00)

http://www.dgt.es/portal/es/oficina_virtual/conductores/canje_permisos/ (in Spanish)

Not permitted to exchange a licence

Australia, the USA, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa are included in the list of countries where no agreement exists. Once the licence holder has legal residence in Spain they may drive for up to six months on their licence before taking a Spanish driving text.

Information supplied by Angloinfo